Hello and thanks for taking time out to talk with us.
Can you first introduce the band and give us some background to how it all started and what brought you all together?
Alex: We are Bison Face, a four-piece band hailing from St Albans. We are made up of Ernie on vocals/guitar who is also the primary songwriter, Alex on lead guitar, Jonny on drums and Arthur on bass. It all started between Ernie and myself (Alex) after I had moved back from Brighton 2 years ago. We had previously been in a band together and were both keen to start a new project and get writing together again. After a while of odd songs and riff writing here and there Ernie locked himself in a room for a month and came out with the outline for our first EP. After this Jonny and Arthur who are both prevalent in the St Albans music scene, and who we were mates with, and fans of their musical projects eventually joined the band.
Ernie: I was doing some session work and sitting on a load of ideas, so yeah after demoing a few I messaged Alex like “we need a band”. At that point I think I had Ladybird, Heathers and UFO. We jammed a bit and then I went full Ben Kenobi recluse and finished writing the EP and a few random tracks. After a few personnel changes we’ve finally got a band that’s committed and just really bloody talented. I can’t sing the other guy’s praises enough.
So you had been involved in other bands before? How has that had any impacted on what you are doing now, in maybe its character or even inspiring a change of style or direction?
Alex: I have been in various bands and projects down in Brighton as well as being in a previous band with Ernie. They have been all kinds of different genres e.g. metal, ambient and even a functions band! This mix I think can be heard in Bison Face, though it is under the ‘rock’ umbrella it has a lot of variation within it. Some tracks are very grunge influenced and some more desert rock and ambient, it is a bit of a rock melting pot.
Ernie: I’ve had a few projects before in the local area and done a few session tours playing guitar or drums for people. I think the only direction it gave me was to just believe in myself, and not let what other people think hinder your creative process.
What inspired the band name?
Ernie: It was an old character I invented as a child; I used to draw and write a lot and make comics. Then it became a nickname for a cat for a while. But really it was just different…Different and interesting enough to evoke nothing about the music. Not something like “Car Crash Fatality” or something.
Was there any specific idea behind the forming of the band and also in what you wanted it and your sound to offer?
Ernie: I had a lot of ideas, and a clear view of what the band’s sound would be steered toward. But we just wanted to have fun. To create something real that we could all look at and go, “We worked hard on this and I’d want to listen to this music”.
And those same instincts still drive the band when it was fresh-faced or have they evolved over time?
Alex: Though I would say we are relatively fresh faced I still believe the band has changed massively. We have matured as a band very quickly and with the new addition of Arthur we can’t wait to hear what his influence will be to the band, but since Covid has happened we haven’t even had a practise together yet!
Ernie: I’m still driven by just needing to create and needing an outlet to put my thoughts into. And the band is driven by that same ethos. Music is the most important thing in a band, that’s like the whole point right?
More specifically, how would you say your sound has similarly evolved?
Ernie: It’s still pretty early days! The first single Ladybird sounds a bit different to the EP we’re releasing next, and then all the new tracks I’ve been writing in lockdown take elements from everything prior and add some new things too. I think it’s important to be open to try things. Obviously, I’m not going to force anything, I think it’s hugely fake when bands evoke a sound that has nothing to do with them. We’re never going to be a fully “desert” band or a fully “grunge” band because those scenes are irrelevant to us. I think the mix of everything and anything is what makes us interesting.
Do you see the evolution of that sound, already and ahead, as more of an organic movement of sound or you are a band which deliberately sets out to try new things?
Ernie: It’s always organic, as soon as I think something’s being forced to get something in particular that we’re not feeling it goes in the bin. If something is good, and it fits cohesively with the band then it’s cool. But as a band we’re open to a lot.
Presumably across the band there is a wide range of inspirations; are there any in particular which have impacted not only on the band’s music but your personal approach and ideas to creating and playing music?
Ernie: For my songwriting and playing it’s split down the middle really, between that garage guitar sound of early Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Pixies, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Weezer and then the more weird, bombastic or cinematic music, like My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, Sonic Youth. You can hear smatterings of all that in the music I write.
Alex: My key inspirations are QOTSA (Josh Homme) mainly the vibe and attitude of the music as well as writing riffs that don’t sound generic, the Pixies for their energy and ethereal almost creepy sound, Jeff Buckley for his unorthodox guitar playing, song writing and other worldly vocals, and a toss-up between Radiohead and Portishead for the ambient influence.
Is there a particular process to the songwriting?
Ernie: I write constantly, and in many forms, so there’s usually ideas knocking about. I don’t usually sit down with a view of “I’m going to write a song” it will come naturally, after just playing guitar and/or singing melodies, things take shape. Once there’s a basic idea, if it clicks I’ll usually have the bones of a whole track done that evening. Then send the demo to the guys who give feedback and ideas.
Alex: For me I am still very much developing this, but I generally start off with a riff and build up from there. I try to experiment with lots of different guitar tracks e.g. standard guitar, slide guitar and 12 string guitars to create an interesting texture, similar to Johnny Marr and Jimmy Page.
Where do you, more often than not, draw the inspirations to the lyrical side of your songs?
Ernie: A lot of my lyrics are born from phrases, or little paragraphs from a notebook that I carry around. Or there will be a phrase that spurs a whole story in my head and becomes the crucible. A lot of the themes are mental health based, and just everyday experiences that I write about as reflective therapy. Then there are lyrics steeped in something like space, space travel or a whole kind of fantasy, or pop culture.
Give us some background to your latest release.
Ernie: Ladybird was the first or second song I wrote for the band so it’s been around for a while. We used to open all the shows with it and recorded it back in September. Then it got delayed, mixed, delayed then completely remixed until we were happy with it. It almost got scrapped, but then we played a show in October and it was so fun to play we gave it another chance, and I’m glad we did.
Give us some insight to the themes and premise behind it.
Ernie: It’s came from me being in my own head a lot. Stopping myself doing things or the flip side doing things I’d regret. It’s about having those voices and barriers that you put up yourself trying to steer you clear of a good thing. And then breaking free of that, the end is a kind of “realisation crescendo”. And my friend Tom (Sharp) made us this animation which really evoked the feeling of the song into a space simulation theme.
Are you a band which goes into the studio with songs pretty much in their final state or prefer to develop them as you record?
Alex: We definitely prefer to have the song in its final stages, If then in the studio something comes out of it or a producer were to suggest something we are all ears, but we want to be going in there making sure we have a finished song that we are proud of.
Ernie: There are always little ideas that come about from working with a producer or jamming songs live and you end up picking up little nuances from the feel of playing it for real. Some of Alex’s parts particularly only really fully developed once we’ve played a track live, like ‘Treason’. But the songs are usually about 95% finished by the time they leave my brain.
Tell us about the live side to the band, presumably the favourite aspect of the band?
Alex: For sure, being able to perform live is the most essential part of being in a band, it’s the culmination of all the time you spend practising in your bedroom and in rehearsal spaces. To be able to share your art with your friends, family and complete strangers has been and will continue to be the greatest experience I believe you can have.
Ernie: Yeah I agree with Al, it’s the cathartic release at the end of the creative process, to put yourself up there and share something you’ve made. It’s the greatest therapy in the world.
It is not easy for any new band to make an impact regionally let alone nationally and further afield. How have you found it your neck of the woods? Are there the opportunities still there, to make a mark if the drive is there for new bands?
Alex: I feel like the scene in St Albans has recently boomed, with lots of new bands and projects coming up. I think after bands like Enter Shikari, Don Broco and Friendly Fires went off there was a real lull, but now it’s creeping back up, hopefully the damage from Covid can be recovered from and that venues like The Horn in St Albans are able to carry on.
Ernie: Yeah, we’re very lucky that most of the bands in our local scene are supportive of each other, and just want everyone to do well. There’s none of that ego, putting others down shit going on, so it’s a lovely community to be a part of.
How has the internet and social media impacted on the band to date? Do you see it as something destined to become a negative from a positive as the band grows and hopefully gets increasing success or is that more down to bands lacking the knowledge and desire to keep it working to their advantage?
Alex: Like most things it’s a double edged sword, I feel like the music industry changes so fast and often it can be hard to keep up but I believe you can use social media and sites such as YouTube and Spotify to get your music to a size of audience that before these technologies would have never been possible. Unfortunately, as a result of this there has been an over saturation of the market and as a consequence it can be really hard to get noticed and stand out. However you would like to hope that through persistent hard work and quality of output the bands that are truly great will get there art recognised, I do however fear that it might also be a case of how much money you put into these sites dictates how much exposure you have to a new audience but we will have to see how the future of these sites pans out.
Once again a big thanks for sharing time with us; anything you would like to add or reveal for the readers?
Alex: I know that sometimes when reading these articles it can be hard to really get a flavour for what a band is really like so I would ask you to go and listen to our single Ladybird on Spotify or watch the music video for it on YouTube, in times like these we really appreciate the help as an upcoming artist during Covid and we all wish the best for your readers and their families.
Ernie: Just stay safe, and again a huge thank you to anyone that’s listened to Ladybird and said nice things, it’s been great to hear all the feedback. We’ve got new music coming ASAP so stay safe and hold tight! Grab us on all the socials or http://www.bisonface.co.uk if you want to stay connected.
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Pete RingMaster 09/08/2020